Fall 2017 sports: Games to watch
Here’s which sports games to watch this fall
It’s a new year, and that means new opportunities for AU on the athletic fields. The Eagles’ fall sports teams will begin their seasons in late August. The 2016 fall sports season was one of the most successful for AU since joining the Patriot League at the turn of the century. The field hockey and volleyball team both claimed Patriot League Tournament titles while the men’s soccer team won the regular season Patriot League title and hosted the Patriot League Tournament.
The men’s soccer team graduated nine members of its successful 2016 squad, leaving head coach Todd West with a young group as it attempts to win the Patriot League after losing in the league championship game two consecutive years. The field hockey team is hoping its experienced roster can once again propel the team to the NCAA tournament. Volleyball coach Barry Goldberg has plenty of experience and depth on his roster and returns several players who were plagued by injuries in 2016. After a disappointing one-win season, head coach Anabel Herring and the women’s soccer team hope to improve on their win total and clinch a spot in the six-team Patriot League Tournament.
With four teams in action, the games will come thick and fast in the autumn months. Here’s a guide of the on campus games you won’t want to miss during the fall semester.
Aug. 27 vs. Washington State, 4:00 p.m.
The Sunday before the start of classes, the AU volleyball team will welcome a marquee opponent during the annual Bender Blue Out. The game is the first of AU Blue Crew’s promotional games and again brings a top quality opponent to Bender Arena. The Wildcats of Washington State from the Pac-12 conference finished the 2016 season with a 22-12 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In the past two Bender Blue Outs, the Eagles have played tight matches against nationally ranked opponents, including the University of Washington and the University of Florida. Washington State is the first of five teams on the Eagles’ schedule who reached the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
“You have to play them, because you have to see what your team can do. The hope is to knock off a couple of those teams and know that we’re ready for the NCAA tournament,” Goldberg said of the team’s strong non-conference opponents in an interview with the Eagle earlier in the summer. “That’ll give us a parameter of how high we may be able to finish [this season].”
AU returns a strong lineup, including Patriot League Player of the Year Aleksandra Kazala, All-Patriot League First Team honorees Loren McKenzie and Kennedy Etheridge and Patriot League Freshman of the Year Vela McBride. The team also returns seniors Hoakalei Dawson and Erin Schwarz, who started their sophomore seasons before missing the entire 2016 season due to injuries. The team is looking to win its 15th Patriot League title since joining the league in 2001.
Other games to note: Sept. 16 vs. Iowa 10:00 a.m. and Howard 7:00 p.m. as part of the American Volleyball Classic
Sept. 24 vs. Penn, 1:00 p.m.
The AU field hockey team plays a difficult schedule in 2017, with many of their toughest matches coming on the road. The team’s two weekend home games in late September mark the biggest non-conference home games of their season when they welcome University of Pennsylvania and Drexel. Penn finished the 2016 season with a record of 11-6 and a top 30 national ranking, but missed out on the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles finished the season ranked No. 19 in the nation and are looking to build on last season’s successes, when the team won its tenth Patriot League title. Head coach Steve Jennings and his staff have put together a schedule that will test his experienced team and strengthen their resume for NCAA Tournament consideration. The team plays Louisville and Wake Forest from the ACC and Michigan State from the Big Ten on the road. They’ll play their first six games away from Jacobs Field. The team’s performance against Penn near the end of a grueling non-conference schedule will be a barometer for the AU field hockey team and could give the team confidence as they attempt to repeat as Patriot League champions. Despite graduating top point-scorer Natalie Konerth, the Eagles return other top scorers Rafaela Rubas (22 points), Leah DiGiandomenico (19 points) and Haley Bowcutt (17 points).
Other game to note: Sept. 30 vs. Holy Cross, 12:00 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Colgate, 2:00 p.m.
While the men’s soccer team has numerous tough non-conference matches, including matches against Oregon State, Gonzaga and 2016 NCAA quarterfinalist Albany, one of their most intriguing matches comes against Patriot League foe Colgate. Their early October meeting at Reeves Field is a rematch of the Patriot League Tournament final a season ago, when the Raiders triumphed on penalty kicks to earn an NCAA Tournament spot. Their 2017 matchup will give AU a chance to put their end-of-season loss from a year ago behind them and make a statement against one of the top teams in the league.
Although standout forward Ethan Kutler has graduated and moved on to the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer, Colgate returns a strong lineup and represents a strong contender for the Patriot League championship. While AU returns 16 players from last season’s team, many saw limited minutes behind the team’s nine seniors. Sophomore midfielder Max Holdsworth (15 points in 2016) and senior forward Joel Hart (four goals in 2016) are among the top returning players for Todd West. A positive result against the Raiders early in the Patriot League season could give the young Eagles group confidence heading into the final month of their schedule.
Other game to note: Sept. 19 vs. West Virginia, 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Army West Point, 12:00 p.m.
Home matches are slim pickings for the AU women’s soccer team. The team only plays eight games at Reeves Field in 2017, however their final game may be the most significant. The Eagles’ match against the Black Knights in their regular season finale could have major implications on which team earns a spot in the Patriot League Tournament. A season ago, AU finished with a record of 1-16-2 with a league record of 0-7-2. One of the Eagles’ two draws came against Army. Army finished ninth in the Patriot League in 2016 with an overall record of 4-12-2. The match offers a chance for two rebuilding programs to match up and potentially cap their season by earning a spot in the league’s six team postseason knockout tournament. Anabel Hering has a young roster, with only three seniors and several returning starters. Juniors Maddie Light, Yari Bradfield and Alexandra Taylor were AU’s top point scorers in 2016.
Other games to note: Sept. 8 vs. Campbell, 4:00 p.m. and Sept. 10 vs. Vermont, 11:00 a.m.